Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to John Sandwith Boys Smith

Letter No.: 
May 22nd, 1954

As from 10 Hanover Terrace,


Dear Master,

I hope you will not think that I am interfering in other people's business. I have received a letter from Professor Hadley1 asking me to tell you my opinion on the proposed abolition of the St John's College Choir School, and this I willingly do.
Our English Choir Schools are one means of preserving the great and unique tradition of English Church music which has persisted through the centuries from the time of Taverner down to the present day. This tradition was, as of course you know, fostered and strengthened by Dr Cyril Rootham, so that in his day the Choir at St John's College was second to none, and I believe that excellence has persisted at the hands of his successors. To abolish the Choir School would, it seems to me, destroy that tradition, and with it one of the most prescious things which our universities can offer to out cultural tradition.
The experiment has, I believe, been tried of substituting for a special choir school a series of choral scholarships to be held by boys of the local grammar schools. But so far as I know, this has nowhere been a success, largely because it destroys the corporate feeling which binds together the participants in our church music; and thus helps to build our church music on a sure foundation.

Yours sincerely,

1. Patrick Hadley


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed. This letter is reproduced by permission of the Master and Fellows of St John’s College, Cambridge.
The proposal to close the choir school was abandoned (see VWL4073).